On Friday, May 26, Elizabethtown Christian Academy (ECA) sent its students home for summer break. This marked the end of a successful fifth year. That’s right 5 YEARS! The Christian school was the 1970 vision of Dr. Jerry Wallace, then the pastor of Elizabethtown Baptist Church. Dr. Wallace wanted to build a community where Bladen County youth could grow intellectually, physically and spiritually.
“It may have taken 42 years,” said ECA Head of School Beverly Bridgers, “but once it got started, God provided and the growth has been phenomenal.”
When the doors reopen in August for year six, ECA will hold classes for Kindergarten through ninth grade, have a middle school band and an athletic program. This is a long way from the twenty-seven K-2nd grade students the school began with in 2012.
Getting the Message
In 2011, Reverend Chris Carroll revived Dr. Wallace’s vision for a Christian school. Rev. Carroll began studies and convened a committee to determine the feasibility of opening a school. There was, however, a huge stumbling block – existing buildings did not meet code specifications for a school. The committee
determined in its final report on April 14, 2011, they would need to build from the ground up, which would be very costly and seemed impossible.
However, God cleared the path. On the afternoon of April 16, 2011, a string of tornados ripped through southeastern North Carolina. One of those tornados, an F2 (111-135 mph winds), passed through Elizabethtown, damaging the classroom buildings behind Elizabethtown Baptist Church and making them unusable. God had opened the door for Dr. Wallace’s 40 year old vision to be fulfilled.
The Early Years
With the construction of the new buildings, the school, an outreach mission of Elizabethtown Baptist Church, started humbly in modular units for the 2012 school year. The twenty-seven kindergarten through second grade students were eager to learn and parents were excited about the opportunity for a Christian education.
“Those were interesting days, but fun days,” said Anne Sasser, Financial and Administrative Assistant. “The children were so eager to learn, and their smiling faces made the struggles much more bearable.”
The second year started with a mad dash. Teachers could move into their new classrooms on August 15, 2013, at noon. For the teachers, the classrooms were blank canvases, and they were eager to paint their walls with sight words, alphabet charts, math tables, and Bible verses. They held open house at 6 o’clock the same night and welcomed students in grades kindergarten through fifth grade – doubling its size from the year before.
“I can’t tell you how much we enjoy the joyful voices of children who are excited about school and eager to learn,” stated Sasser.
ECA Now and Beyond
ECA decided to offer classes from kindergarten through eighth grade for the 2016-2017 school year. With this school year came the addition of Middle School
Battle of the Books, Elementary Science Olympiad, Middle School Science Olympiad, National Geography Bee, and Junior Beta Club. ECA students won regional and state awards in every one of these activities.
“Elizabethtown Christian Academy has been a great mission for Elizabethtown Baptist Church,” said Reverend Nathan Morton, current church pastor. “The mission outreach that this school has provided to the Bladen County community has been a blessing to the children, parents, faculty and staff. An amazing blessing.”
Initially, the school was going to wait another year before adding high school, but faithful parents wanted to see the school grow. After much discussion and prayer, ECA will begin the 2017-2018 school year with its first high school class – ninth grade. ECA will also begin a band program and a middle school athletic program: boys’ soccer and girls’ volleyball in the fall, girls’ and boys’ basketball in the winter, and spring sports – although the teams have not been determined yet.
If you ask board members and teachers about ECA, they will most likely tell you the strength of ECA is its Christian foundation coupled with the amazing certified teachers who are great Christian leaders. That’s not to say that there haven’t been growing pains or that there won’t be more growing pains along the way.
“There are no perfect schools, despite what some people may say. Parents and students will always have to contend with issues that may be troubling or difficult, no matter what school the students are attending. ECA is willing and ready to look for ways to improve and grow stronger at the end of each year,” stated Bridgers. “We are working to become a strong academic school – one that you can measure against other elite independent schools. That takes time, patience, and determination on the part of everyone involved.”
ECA is committed to providing rigorous academics in a Christian environment for its students. So, here’s to ECA on its first five years and its future accomplishments.
J. Todd Coates is the director of advancement & communication at Elizabethtown Christian Academy.